WICHITA FALLS, Texas (CN) - A federal judge on Thursday granted the Securities and Exchange Commission's request for an emergency court order halting an alleged $68 million Ponzi scheme involving a Caribbean-based bank and a Swiss affiliate.
According to the SEC, William Wise and Kristi Hoegel - through their Caribbean-based Millennium Bank, its parent United Trust of Switzerland and two United States-based affiliates - convinced about 375 investors that they would receive certificates of deposit worth up to a 321 percent higher than bank-issued CDs.
"As alleged in our complaint, the defendants disguised their Ponzi scheme as a legitimate offshore investment and made promises about exuberant returns that were just too good to be true," said Rose Romero, director of the SEC's Fort Worth Regional Office. "This case demonstrates that investors need to be especially cautious when placing money with entities that may be outside the reach of U.S. regulators."
Soliciting investors on the bank's Web site and advertisements, Millennium allegedly assured customers their investments were safe because the institution was "the benefactor of Swiss banking" and its "vast global network ... built over the last 75 years," but the SEC says the bank never invested any of the money.
The SEC further alleges that the parent company is not even a Swiss-licensed bank or securities dealer.
A federal judge granted the Commission's request for an asset freeze and emergency relief to investors.
As in the Madoff scandal, family members of the accused are named in the suit, including Lynn Wise (the wife of William Wise); Ryan Hoegel (the brother of Kristi Hoegel); and Daryl Hoegel (the husband of Jacqueline Hoegel).
The SEC also named Laurie H. Walton of Raleigh as an individual defendant; and United T of S, Sterling IS, Matrix Administration, and Jasmine Administration as corporate defendants.
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